C Cycle – 5th Sunday of Lent 22
Jesus said, “I have not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it” (Mt.5:17), The law was definite about the punishment to metered out to those who commit adultery. They were to be stoned to death. The woman the Pharisees brought to Jesus, was caught in the act of adultery. Was she dragged out and paraded before condemning eyes to the temple? Did they give her time to put on her dress before they brought her into area where Jesus was teaching? The temple was crowded with people listening to Jesus.
You can imagine their reaction as she was ushered in, mummering voices, condemning her and ready to stone her to death. You can feel her shame, as she stood there, the filth of her sin on display. How many people in the crowd would recognize her as someone who lived on their street, in their neighborhood, shopped beside them in the market or sat beside her in the temple.
Yet it was not her the Pharisees were trying to embarrass; it was Jesus they wanted to put him on trial. She deserved death according to the law and although their hearts were far from God, they obeyed the law. Their dependence on the law defined their righteousness and at that moment it could be used to trap this man from Nazareth. They wanted nothing more than to have him break the law and have him declared as unworthy of his growing reputation.
For a people who knew the law and the prophets they failed to recognize the words of Isaiah, “…behold I am doing something new…now it springs forth…. rivers in the waste land.” They refused to believe that living water could flow from him to everyone who thirsts as he said it would (Jn. 7:38). That living water which will flow from Jesus changing sinners into saints, unbelievers into believers and satisfying the hunger within each of us. They denied he could be the Messiah, and they wanted his response to deny the law and offer her forgiveness.
But they did not expect him to challenge their sinfulness. They did not expect him to respond to their question by him revealing their hypocrisy. His words “let him who is without sin cast the first stone” hit home.
They did not expect their self-righteousness to be challenged and when it was, they were guilty of being hypocritical self-righteous men whose hearts were far from God. They did not expect to be called sinners, for they were the righteous ones. I wonder if at the moment they walked away, did she feel the embrace the prodigal son felt when his father restored him. Did all the embarrassment and the shame of her sin washed away in a flood of cleansing water as forgiveness enfolded her?
Isn’t this how we should feel as our sins are forgiven? Go and sin no more sounds so easy and yet we must believe Jesus was not telling her to resist temptation. We must believe she was given the power to overcome sin by the action of the Spirit working within her as forgiveness flooded her heart. she received more than forgiveness that day. She received the grace of restoration, her innocence was restored, her virginity being restored. She had an encounter with Christ just as Saul of Tarsus had when he encountered Christ on the road to Damascus. This encounter between the woman and Jesus was the same as Paul experienced. It is one of those “see I am doing something new” moment offered to each of us.
The problem with the parable is it seems too easy. She did not ask for nor expect forgiveness. Jesus did not tell her to offer a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin. No, she was forgiven and given the power to sin no more.
Did you notice there was no words of remorse from her or from Saul of Tarsus? Is grace free flowing and never ending always available to us? Yes, it is, and yet it does demand a response from us. We must allow that grace to change us into disciples, who understand we will see the penalty for our sin on display during the Easter Triduum. Jesus’s suffering and dying so we can go and sin no more. Jesus is offering us a new life as a new creation giving witness to the unmerited grace given to each of us.
In the time between now and Easter Sunday let us allow the Sprit to penetrate our hearts and reveal to us where we are being unfaithful to Christ. Where are we giving ourselves away in adulterous behavior breaking the bond of love between ourselves and God.